BERKELEY HEIGHTS — Education sure isn’t easy during a pandemic. The Coronavirus crisis has resulted in unprecedented challenges for educators, students and parents alike.

Just last Saturday, Nov. 14, Berkeley Heights Superintendent of Schools Melisa Varley announced Governor Livingston High School would be all virtual until Dec. 7. In the same announcement, Varley noted the district “will not move to remote instruction for our other schools.” The remaining grades will still feature a hybrid model of learning, featuring a mix of both in-person and remote learning.

Districts throughout the state are grappling with how to best educate students of all grade levels as the 2020-2021 school year approaches the winter months.

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Prior to Varely’s announcement, the Nov. 12 Board of Education meeting featured a presentation entitled “Curriculum and Instruction during a Pandemic.”

Co-lead by Assistant Superintendent Scott McKinney and Director of Elementary Instruction Marybeth Kopacz, the presentation showcased analytical approaches used to track student performance.

Additionally, both McKinney and Kopacz explained in less specialized language, insights into student performance during the pandemic.

Major Takeaways

According to the presentation, students struggling with virtual learning display a pattern of characteristics.

  • They suffer from a “lack of engagement and/or attendance in a remote learning environment.”
  • Struggling students often have difficulty with “digital organization” and “online learning skills.”
  • Students that are falling behind in a virtual setting “have a hard time keeping up with the structured virtual learning that can be caused by a lack of stamina when it comes to screen time.”

But according to the presentation, not all students are suffering from remote — hybrid learning. Some students are doing exceptionally well.

“One of the most important takeaways is not every student was impacted in the same way during this crisis,” said McKinney. “While we can probably all agree nothing replaces face to face interaction that takes place during in-person instruction, we must acknowledge many of our students were able to maintain progress and even flourish in this environment.”

McKinney continued to emphasize the district’s philosophy of targeting the individual needs of students. Moreover, the presentation highlighted one important truth about virtual learning — teaching and lessons simply take longer to execute.

As the presentation explained, teaching students virtually takes more time due to inherent issues with communication and checking to see if students are grasping the lessons.

“There's not a one size fits all solution for all of our students that have fallen behind,” explained McKinney. “These issues must be addressed through individualized and targeted measures that support their individual needs.”